Third Annual Poetry Festival Brings Celebrated Poets to Northwest Arkansas

Top, from left: Hyejung Kook, Diannely Antigua, Victoria Hudson; bottom: Zaina Alsous, Olatunde Osinaike, Banah Ghadbian.
Photo Submitted

Top, from left: Hyejung Kook, Diannely Antigua, Victoria Hudson; bottom: Zaina Alsous, Olatunde Osinaike, Banah Ghadbian.

The Open Mouth Reading Series invites poetry lovers of all ages to attend public readings and workshops on Saturday, Oct. 12, as part of the third annual Open Mouth Poetry Festival. Featured readers include Zaina Alsous, Diannely Antigua, Hyejung Kook, and Olatunde Osinaike, who will read alongside local poets Banah Ghadbian and Victoria Hudson. All events are free and open to the public.

In addition to official events taking place Saturday, Oct. 12, Open Mouth has helped to coordinate a public dialogue between members of the Northwest Arkansas writing community and delegates from the U.S.-China Poetry Dialogue to take place at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at the Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Chinese delegates will also read at Ozark Poets and Writers Collective's 25th anniversary celebration Friday night at the Graduate Hotel.

Sponsors for this year's poetry festival include the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas Press, Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education at the University of Arkansas, and Open Mouth supporters on Patreon.


Workshop: Poetry and Place, with the U.S.-China Poetry Dialogue
10 a.m. at Nightbird Books (all ages) | Register

Poets Shu Ting, Zang Di, Mu Tan, Yuan Tian, Chen Zongyi, and Sun Xiaoya — traveling from all over China to Oklahoma and Arkansas to engage in dialogue with U.S. poets — will host a dialogue and generative writing workshop engaging the poetry of place, connecting disparate cultural and geographic landscapes.

Workshop: Poetry as Incantation, with Hyejung Kook
1 p.m. at Smoke & Barrel Tavern (21 or older) | Register

During this generative workshop, participants will consider poetry as performative utterance, as speech act — "Let there be light, and there was light." Attendees will read and discuss some examples of poetic incantations (spells, prayers, blessings, curses, etc.) before a guided freewrite where each participant will create a poem with a strongly directed intention. 

Festival Feature: Diannely Antigua and Hyejung Kook, with opening reading by Victoria Hudson
5 p.m. at The Nines Trailside (18 or older)

Diannely Antigua is a Dominican American poet and educator, born and raised in Massachusetts. Her debut collection Ugly Music was the winner of the YesYes Books Pamet River Prize. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she won the Jack Kerouac Creative Writing Scholarship and received her M.F.A. at New York University where she was awarded a Global Research Initiative Fellowship to Florence, Italy. She is the recipient of additional fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers, and the Fine Arts Work Center Summer Program. Her work has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her poems can be found in Washington Square Review, Bennington Review, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. Her heart is in Brooklyn.

Hyejung Kook's poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit, Half Mystic Radio, The Massachusetts Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, and Pleiades. Other works include an essay in The Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Hyejung was born in Seoul, Korea and now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two young children. She is a Fulbright grantee and a Kundiman fellow. 

Victoria Hudson is an M.F.A. candidate and recipient of a Lily Peters Fellowship at the University of Arkansas. Her poems are published or forthcoming in jubilat, the Dunes Review, and Fogged Clarity. She is an assistant poetry editor at the Arkansas International.

Festival Feature: Zaina Alsous and Olatunde Osinaike, with opening reading by Banah Ghadbian
8 p.m. at Nomads Trailside (all ages)

Zaina Alsous is an abolitionist, a daughter of the Palestinian diaspora, and a movement worker in South Florida. Her poetry, reviews, and essays have been published in the Boston Review, the New Inquiry, Mask Magazine, Adroit, and elsewhere. She edits for Scalawag Magazine, a publication dedicated to unsettling dominant narratives of the U.S. South. Her chapbook Lemon Effigies won the Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize and was published by Anhinga Press. Her first full-length collection A Theory of Birds won the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, and was published by the University of Arkansas Press in Fall 2019.

Olatunde Osinaike is a Nigerian-American poet and software developer originally from the West Side of Chicago. He is the author of the chapbooks Speech Therapy, a winner in The Atlas Review 2019 Chapbook Series (forthcoming) and The New Knew (Thirty West). A Best of the Net, Bettering American Poetry, and Pushcart Prize nominee, he is a finalist for the 2019 Gearhart Poetry Contest and placed 2nd for the 2019 Editor's Prize at RHINO Poetry. His most recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Prelude, Puerto del Sol, Winter Tangerine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and the Columbia Poetry Review, as well as in the anthologies Best New Poets, 20.35 Africa, and New Poetry from the Midwest. He is currently on poetry staff at The Adroit Journal.

Banah Ghadbian is a Syrian woman poet, jewelry maker, and activist. She has a B.A. in comparative women's studies and sociology from Spelman College and an M.A. from University of California-San Diego, where she is a doctoral student in ethnic studies. Her research focuses on how Syrian women use creative resistance including poetry and theatre to survive multiple layers of violence. Her work is published in The Feminist Wire (finalist in their 2015 poetry competition), As/Us: a journal for queer women in the world, Aunt Chloe, Sukoon, the Journal of Middle Eastern Women's Studies, and the print anthology Passage & Place.

About the Open Mouth Reading Series: The Open Mouth Reading Series is a community-based poetry series located in Fayetteville, founded by poets M.D. Myers and Molly Bess Rector in October of 2015. A federal 501(c)(3) non-profit, Open Mouth works to enrich the Northwest Arkansas community through close contact with poetry and with poets from the larger literary world. Open Mouth hosts readings, workshops, a summer poetry retreat and an annual fall poetry festival. For more information about Open Mouth or to donate, visit and sign up for the Open Mouth newsletter.


Nani Verzon, project/program specialist
Middle East Studies Program


Chancellor, Campus Leaders Discuss Fall Preparations, Actions on Racial Climate

Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and Vice Chancellor Yvette Murphy-Erby gave updates about the return to campus and efforts to be more inclusive.

Honors College Selects 21 Incoming Students for Path Program

The Path Program provides mentoring and scholarships to support exceptional students from underrepresented populations.

Dillon Gift Names Endowed Chair and Entrance Hall for Timberlands Center

A $1 million gift from Ray and Deborah Dillon of Little Rock will be split between the Anthony Timberlands Center and a new endowed chair.

Communication Students Produce Documentary About Women in Indian Cinema

Students in the U of A Department of Communication recently finished a documentary film, Barrier-Breaking Women in Indian Cinema, for the online 2020 Bentonville Film Festival.

Plant Science Grad Student Sharfadine Selected for Global Crop Loss Program

Sherif Sharfadine, a U of A graduate student, has been selected to participate in the Global Burden of Crop Loss Initiative, which focuses on the impact of pests on food production and availability.

News Daily